kappa 河童
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. river child. A supernatural water-sprite believed to inhabit Japan's lakes and rivers. The name kappa varies from region to region, and includes kawatarou 河太郎, kawako 河伯, and kawaranbe 河ランベ. The appearence of a kappa also varies, but kappa are generally thought to be about the size of a young boy, and covered with green scales. They also have a snout, bobbed hair, and a saucer-like depression on the top of the head that holds water. When this water supply diminishes, the kappa's special powers diminish. Kappa swim well thanks to webbed feet and hands, but can also walk on land. Kappa also can rotate their arm and leg joints fully. Some kappa resemble otters, turtles with beaks, or have wings. Kappa are said to be fond of cucumbers and of sumou 相撲 wrestling. In some regions kappa are thought to be helpful, but generally their reputation is far more malicious. In particular, kappa delight in abducting humans and horses. Kappa are noted for their aversion to metal objects. Illustrations of kappa frequently are included in Edo period anthologies of supernatural tales. Kappa are often depicted in comical paintings *giga 戯画 in paintings accompanying verse (see *haiga 俳画), and occasionally appear in *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 .


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